Tuesday, August 26, 2008

BIG FIGHT


The comments on my various posts by Shoshi have been disturbing and have put me on edge (maybe that's a good thing.) I feel painted as the evil, selfish husband who nags his wife to death with his unending tirades. Hold on to your seat belts, I have one more, and this one is probably big.

I believe my responsibilities as a husband consist of the following things: minyan, work, caring/helpful husband/father. This morning I blew the word "caring" out of the water.

My wife and I have been discussing what is important for her to have done in the house: mother, maintain clean home, clothes, food. After tripping over clean clothes she has not yet gone through for over a week now and being annoyed that I have to fight with her to get the laundry done so that I can have clean undergarments and shirts to wear to work, I stumbled to minyan wearing the same pants I wore yesterday.

Looking the rabbi in the eye this morning from across the room, I could tell he was wondering why I was late *again*. I wished he knew how difficult it is in my life to have things in order and I wish he knew how disorderly everything is in my life. I wanted to cry.

I came home, entered the house and saw that the kitchen light was on. I was happy about this because my wife and I had a fight yesterday after her not waking up for the umpteenth time to make lunch, one of her responsibilities (don't ask me why, that's just the way it has been -- on that note, I have suggested to her a million times that it would be easier on her if she only made lunch once a week, such as on a Sunday, and then just make a number of portions.) Knowing that she had a midwife appointment, I decided to surprise her by moving the baby's car seat into the other car without her having to ask me; I did this quietly so that when she would ask me, it would already be done. When I came back into the house, I noticed that the kitchen was empty. She wasn't even awake.

A bit confused, but slightly annoyed, I wondered to myself why she only reacts to a fight and ignores everything I say otherwise. I gathered my things for work, and without eating breakfast, I wanted to just leave. She woke up and came out of the bedroom with the baby, took one look at me, and noticed that I was upset again. I left without saying a word, without breakfast, and again, without her making me lunch. I slammed the door on the way out for the first time in our marriage.

Waiting for her call to remind me not to take the good car because of her appointment, I heard nothing from her. Now even more upset that she didn't even remember her own appointment, I drove to work. She called a few minutes later, but I didn't answer, thinking, "you treat me as if I am single, I'll let you figure out for yourself which car I took and whether I moved the car seat." A few seconds later, I gave in and called her back just in case it was important and just in case she needed something, and she picked up in a cute voice saying, "you're not allowed to leave the house without saying goodbye."

[I HATE BEING ANGRY, yet I hate even more being angry over the SAME PROBLEMS EVERY DAY. Whether it's the cleaning, the laundry, the food (or the lack thereof), I have spoken to my Rabbi many times telling him I just want to take over these things because I hate waiting for her to do them. He has told me that "this would be a very bad idea for the sole reason that you will resent her for not doing them and thus it will cause a shalom-bayis issue between you." You have no idea how many times I have wanted to TAKE OVER these responsibilities of hers, but I have held back so many times and have waited for her to do her part.]


Sitting in the car fuming from anger, I drove to work. When I got close to work, I called her calmly to ask her if she even knew why I was upset at her. She knew, but then did not take responsibility for her not doing what she was supposed to do and instead, she turned it on me that its ugly for me to be angry at her. This really annoyed me.

I raised my voice (with a loud pleading voice rather than a shouting or yelling voice) and I told her that I HATE being angry. I hate seeing the same things not done every day, and I hate having the same fights with her every day. I wanted to tell her that it was her fault I was angry but let's be real -- I was choosing to be angry because while it sapped my energy and hurt my heart and my chest and made me cry to do so, I felt it was the only thing that she responds to. At that point, she started nit-picking defenses, and I got annoyed at her again. "She's not even listening," I thought. I tell her five things that are not done, and she focuses the argument on the one thing she did yesterday when the point is the FIVE things that GENERALLY ARE NOT DONE EVER.

During the fight, I realized that she was getting upset and/or hurt which meant that for once, she was not just shutting down and putting up a wall the way she usually does when I say something critical to her, but that what I was saying was actually getting through. At that point, fearing a tear, I backed off and ended the conversation.

So that was our fight. It should be noted that the content of our fight was not over the laundry or the food or the lunch or the cleaning, etc., it was over her not taking an active role in our life together and treating life as if it were a vacation while shirking her responsibilities. Case in point, I was upset at her for not taking the initiative on so many areas of our life that she promised that she would and that I was relying on her to take the initiative, such as in the areas of 1) her finding a job, 2) her doing research on real estate and foreclosures for us to buy our first investment home, 3) things that we agreed that we would do together (e.g. she wanted to take the introduction to computer science online courses with me), and I am finding that I am doing them alone, and 4) taking the initiative on things that should be done to move our family forward, such as writing a check to pay the parking ticket she got a few weeks ago and that I've been hounding her to pay, etc.

At this point I honestly don't know what to do. I hate being angry, yet I hate living my life the way it is. I really want to do the laundry and all the other chores on my own without her, but then what point is there to being married? I MEAN, WE EACH HAVE OUR OWN RESPONSIBILITIES, AND IT WOULD BE HURTFUL TO OUR MARRIAGE FOR ME TO STEP ON HER TOES AND TO TAKE AWAY HER RESPONSIBILITIES BECAUSE I WOULD HATE HER FOR LETTING ME TAKE THEM FROM HER. LIFE IS NOT A FREE-FOR-ALL, AND I FEEL AS IF SHE DOESN'T DO HER PART. IN OUR MANY CONVERSATIONS, THERE WERE THINGS THAT WE BOTH SAID WERE IMPORTANT FOR THE OTHER TO DO (RESPONSIBILITIES), AND I AM DOING ALL OF MINE AND SHE IS BARELY DOING MANY OF HERS AND I FEEL THIS IS NOT FAIR.

When I come home from work every evening exhausted, I don't sit down in front of a TV and veg out. Instead, I spend time with my wife and my son, I talk to them, I play with them, and I often help her put him to sleep, spending close to 20 minutes holding my son's hand before he falls asleep. At that point, aside from doing some minor chores or helping my wife out with something, I feel that my day is over BECAUSE I HAVE FULFILLED MY RESPONSIBILITIES. I feel that I have earned the right to sit down with a book or to open my textbooks and start doing schoolwork or learning something.

If you think I am selfish for this and for wanting her to have finished her part of the bargain by doing her responsibilities, I think you are wrong. There is nothing I want more than to sit down with her lovingly and to pay attention to her and love her for the rest of the evening, and I usually do turning a blind-eye towards the things that have not been done. But after a while, some things can just no longer be ignored.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

You are the definition of anal. I'm also worried that you might punch your wife in the face one day for leaving the cap off the toothpaste.

Zoe Strickman said...

Has that happened to you before?

Ahuva said...

Zoe, you do know that regularly upsetting a pregnant woman is not all that healthy for a fetus, right?

Is it possible that she's sleeping in because her pregnancy is sapping her strength? Is she having an easy time carrying the child?

You know... I don't think anyone has ever asked about her background. You really make it sound like she doesn't do anything. You've been in that apartment, what, less than a year? Even if she *never* cleaned the floors/doorknobs/table/etc., it's hard to imagine the kind of state you describe accumulating in that short a period of time.

Does she come from a basically happy and functional home? Did she do housework at home? Did her mother? Has she ever gone out and gotten a job for herself?

It sounds like you're both desperately unhappy. You need to find a productive way to address the issues. Yelling at her might "get results" in the short term, but it's going to destroy your marriage and set your children up to need years of therapy. It sounds like you have minyan and work under control-- but all this anger towards your wife is really messing up "caring/helpful husband/father."

Have you ever held a 6-year-old boy in your arms and listen to him confide in you about how much he hates his daddy? I have. You do *not* *ever* want your son to feel that way... and that means you need your wife to be content.

You need to find out why the things you want done aren't getting done and work with her to find a way for you both to live together in peace.

I HIGHLY doubt that she believes that she is "treating life as if it were a vacation." She has a young baby with another on the way, an unhappy husband and money problems. She is probably as miserable as you are.

shoshi said...

Hi Also a Chassid,

I see that I was wrong in the comments I made. I did not mean to hurt you.

What I meant was:

A baby is very difficult job. It is much more difficult, it takes much more energy than you and me can imagine (since I have no children).

If your wife sleeps till noon, if she lets the laundry were it is, she does not do it to make it angry: the baby is asking for all her energy, all her attention.

Having a first child is a major change in a woman's life, and no woman can imagine beforehand how hard it will be.

So: she is on the edge. She cannot do more than she is already doing. She is investing all her energy in this new-born little child that will carry your and her hereditary material.

Therefore it is a wrong and very damaging approach to insist that "I am entitled to find a meal cooked when I come home". As we say in Austria: "Where there is nothing, even the emperor cannot enforce his right". If she woke up x times during the night, she has to compensate. It's not for fun that she sleeps till noon.

If you take a supportive approach, instead of seeing her shortcomings, this will be very helpful for her and will strenghten your relationship (e.g. instead of writing in a blog that the clean laundry is not yet in the drawers: put it there. You don't know where it belongs: just open your eyes, then you will learn)...

When I wrote that you should give her one week holyday and clean the house yourself, the thought behind it was the following: as long as you do not have to do it yourself, you cannot see what it takes to keep the house clean. As soon as you tried it yourself, you will also know where the difficulties lye, and this will make you a lot more tolerant.

So my proposal: For the next weeks, don't come home for lunch. Say: Honey, I see that you need some time adjusting to the new situation, you lack sleep, I will eat out at lunch (or prepare myself sandwiches in the morning)...

If the problem was that you did not understand this, I hope I could help you.

If, however, you just think that you are entitled to certain "services" and do not want to renounce them, even in this very critical situation, than I repeat what I wrote in my last commentaries.

Zoe Strickman said...

Look, I don't want to look like the jerk here, but our son is over a year old. There are no newborns here. Further, my wife is over 5 months pregnant, so she has gotten past the hard part.

I am very supportive of her. All I ask is that she do her part.

She's not up all night with the baby. She's not having a difficult time with the pregnancy (B"H). She spends her days checking e-mail and messaging friends on facebook.com.

rescue37 said...

I think you need to find a new Rabbi. What in the world is this, it's her job and my job? If she can't do it, you do end of story, or get over it and live with it. How about thinking of all the things she does that you don't see? It doesn't sound like she sits arounf eating bon-bons all day, it's just that she doesnt have enough time, for whatever reason, to get everything done. Do you get everything done at work every day, or do things sometimes take longer, or do you have to stay late to get it done? From the posts I have read, it basicaly sounds like you need to GROW UP ALREADY. A 60 hour week is no comparrison to spending a whole day with a baby day in day out. I often tell my wife (semi jokingly) that I go to work to relax. Sit down and think about what your getting upset about, are any of the situations life endangering? If not, what's the big deal? If something is in its wrong place, put it back where it belongs. Think about it, you can spend an hour cleaning up or 5 hours being upset. If you choose the 5 hours, do yourself and your wife a favor and end the marriage while your still talking and the kids are young. Get the Shalom Bayis series from Rabbi Reisman and listne to them. You need to Fargin, Fargook and if you can't then Fargess.

Zoe Strickman said...

Wow, that's good advice. I don't know if she's eating bon-bons all day, maybe she is. Maybe I should end it. Push-come-to-shove, I wouldn't end it - I wouldn't risk messing up my loving son. If I need to live my life in a disorganized mess, then I will -- I will just be kicking and screaming before I'm forced to live with it.

AND, what is so wrong about trying to live your life in harmony? What is so wrong about wanting a clean house? What is so wrong about wanting people to do what they are supposed to do? NO. This is a problem in my home, and I am kicking and screaming to fix it.

rescue37 said...

What do you mean by supposed to do? Who made up the list of supposed to do? Maybe what YOU are supposed to do, is support her and help her with what you feel are her failings. If it's not important enough for YOU to do and pick up the perceived slack why should it be important for her? The way to fix something is not to kick and scream, the way to fix it, is to pick up the correct tools and do it yourself. If it's not getting done now, why do you think screaming will help? Do you perform better when your boss screams at you? You need to ask your own Rabbi, but if this is so important to you and is causing these issues, it would probably be better to daven at home and spend the rest of the time making lunch and cleaning up. The mere fact that you don't want to end it and would be willing, but don't want to, live with the mess is very good. Now you need to get this her job my job nonsense out of your head. I beleive there is a gemarah talking about R' Meirs wife and the troubles she caused him (which were much worse than yours) to which he responded "Isn't it enough that she is raising the children?" It's getting close to elul, try working on the midah of ka'as and Anivus. And don't forget the Rabbi Reisman tapes. Jsut think back to you partnership law classes, if one partner is not fulfilling his obligation, there are only two options. 1. end it 2. pick up the slack and live with it. Since you don't want to end it, you need to cover. 5 years down the line you won't even remember that it was an issue, just do everything out of love and say before you do it that you want to be mi'kayaim doing chesed. Chesed can be done to ones wife also, it doesn't have to involve somebody outside of the house.

Zoe Strickman said...

Look, I hear you and I agree with you, but what keeps popping into my head is the number of times last year where I would pick up the slack and she would get complacent and then would do even less. Then, as a test to myself, I stopped doing what I was doing (at the time, I think it was the dishes she was leaving around after eating) and I tested to see whether she would start doing them after I stopped AND SHE DIDN'T! ONE WEEK LATER, WE HAD A FIGHT HOW COME THE MOLDY DISHES ARE STILL OUT?!?

I honestly can't remember whether the example was dishes, or laundry, or whatever, but bottom line, I learned early on that if I pick up slack, it doesn't work on any level other than as a temporary measure for my own sanity. The only thing that worked with her in the past was a confrontation (e.g. WHY ARE THE MOLDY DISHES STILL OUT?).

PS - If you could find me that Gemara citation, I'd love to learn it.

Anonymous said...

My suugestion is to expect nothing and live as if you're a bachelor. That means doing your laundry (but only yours), making your own lunch, clean your own dishes (but not hers) etc. That way, your life will be in order and if she wants to live like a garbage lady, that's her problem. Take care of yourself and that's it.

I know this sounds strange but I think it might work. You will expect much much less, almost nothing. And then on the few occasions that she does something for you, you will be grateful.

By the way, I don't think it's your job to spend so much time with your kid. So I would cut down on that too. Eventually, she will hopefully appreciate when you do her a favor and help out.

Please don't dismiss me as a tyrant and my advice as horrible. I think people who know me would say I'm generally a nice person. I'm not trying to cause fights. I am trying to resolve them and I think what I wrote might truly help and is inherently correct.

Do everything for yourself and don't expect her to make lunch etc. Perhaps she is not the wife of your dreams. Perhaps she does not fit the traditional role. But you only have two options (because I highly doubt she will change): divorce her (not the most pleasant option) or make it work. And I think my advice might be helpful.

-- Meir B

Anony Ben Mess said...

Maybe you should stop debating all the commenters and take the earlier advice and switch Rabbis. Find yourself a Rabbi who will say that you won't lose Shalom Bayis by adapting the mentality of "if you want the job done the right way, do it youself".

I betcha if you picked up those jobs for a week, you would be a lot happier, despite what that Rabbi said. And if in the 2nd week you switched roles and took care of your baby all day while your worked you would appreciate all that she does and realize that you're making a mountain out of a mohel.

Smirking Cat said...

"...my wife is over 5 months pregnant, so she has gotten past the hard part."

Oh, is that so? Might I ask how many times you have been pregnant?

No one here can tell you how to divide responsibilities or housework. It's something you and your wife need to decide, directly, with each other, in writing if necessary, clear as a bell, but with fairness and compromise. From the little I've read, I'd say you and your wife have no idea what a typical day is for each other, so you may have some talking to do first.